Blue Baby Blanket by Candace Cahill

For years I kept his blue baby blanket in the bottom right-hand drawer of my dresser.

I stole it from the hospital.

I remember lifting it to my face and noting the sharp odor of sour milk mingled with the intoxicating scent of baby. Without a thought, I slipped the soft, waffle-like material into my brown paper sack.

When I got home, alone and hollowed out, I curled into a fetal position with the blanket bunched up like a pillow and cried.

I refused to wash it, hoping to hold on to what little remained.

In fragile moments, those times I couldn’t pretend anymore, I’d pull it out to hide my face and collect my tears. When the storm passed, I’d fold and tuck it away, careful to nestle his first pacifier and hospital identification bracelet, the one with the name I gave him on it, into the center, like eggs in a nest.

Now, thirty years later, that blanket cradles the other keepsakes I have of him. Pages of handwritten updates from his early life. A collection of school pictures and snapshots from vacations and holiday parties with his adopted family. A construction paper daisy chain. And now, his funeral program and a favorite stuffed animal, Scrappy, handed over by his adopted dad as an offering of solidarity.

Over the years, the blanket faded from baby-blue to the color of glacial ice, and my tears washed away his scent.

All that remains is the stale smell of sadness.


The story behind the story:

How can I share the pain of losing my child, not once, but twice? The reality is so big and all-consuming. So, I began by finding a small moment that, by itself, appeared digestible, deconstructed it, pulled apart the threads, and then rewove them into this flash cnf piece.

Candace Cahill is a first mother, an NPE, and the author of the memoir, GOODBYE AGAIN. She grew up in rural Central Minnesota with no running water or electricity, and by the time she graduated from high school, she’d learned books were an oasis and her guitar a good friend. After earning a Social Work degree, she embarked on a year-long bicycle trip across North America before settling in Alaska. Candace resides with her husband, Tom, in Denali and works as a National Park Ranger during the summer months.

“Blue Baby Blanket” was first published in Severance Magazine.

Header Photo by Naz Knudsen.

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